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Former Nazi Soldier Charged in 1944 Massacre

Allegedly involved in attack on French village of Oradour-sur-Glane

Stephanie Butnick
January 10, 2014
Remains of the children's school in Oradour-sur Glane, photographed in 2002. (Dennis Nilsson/Wikimedia)

Remains of the children’s school in Oradour-sur Glane, photographed in 2002. (Dennis Nilsson/Wikimedia)

A former member of Hitler’s notorious Waffen SS, now 88 years old, has been charged with involvement in the June 1944 massacre in the small French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, in which nearly all the village’s residents were killed, Reuters reports. The gruesome attack (men were led to a barn and shot, while women and children were burned alive in the church) was said to have been retaliation for the ambush of a vehicle carrying an SS doctor near the village, as well as a warning message to French Resistance guerrillas.

“The prosecution charges an 88-year-old pensioner from Cologne with (joining in) the destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane in France,” said Achim Hengstenberg, court spokesman in the western German city.

“He and another shooter are said to have killed 25 men in a barn with his machine gun. He is also said to have aided the burning down of the village church.”

The accused denies the charges, saying he did not fire a single shot in Oradour, according to his lawyer Rainer Pohlen. He even said he tried to save the lives of some.

In a strange twist given the defendant’s advanced age, the case is being handled by the young offenders chamber of the Cologne court, since he was 19 years old when the massacre occurred. According to the report the chamber will decide whether or not to pursue the case.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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